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oil slump

Americas

Houston’s filet mignon special shows oil slump is no problem

Thirty years ago, times were so tough in Houston that Steve Zimmerman introduced the Oil Barrel Special, a three-course lunch tied to the plummeting price of crude. He revived the special at his restaurant Cinq in January, in the midst of another precipitous decline, but there haven’t been many takers, about 10 a week compared with the 70 a day who used to queue for the chance to enjoy filet mignon for a steal. Houston -- known in some parts of town as the Energy Capital of the World -- has been doing just fine in this oil bust. “In the 1980s, there was a major crisis,” said Zimmerman, who’s owned the La Colombe d’Or hotel, where the special is now a dinner option at Cinq, for 35 years. “This is just a blip.” Houston, the fourth-largest city in the U.S., was slammed by the ’80s crash, when oil took a 67 percent nosedive in four months. Banks failed, shopping malls emptied out and foreclosures shot up. Tax revenue shriveled and the city fired dozens of sanitation workers, which led to a strike that completely halted trash pickup. Back then, 87 percent of all so-called base-employment jobs were tied to the oil and gas industry, while as of 2010 fewer than half were, according to an analysis by the University of Houston. That explains why Mayor Annise Parker in a recent speech called the 59 percent price-drop of 2014 and 2015 “just a pothole in the road.”